Improving Gait and Mobility With Pilates
We’ve all heard the saying, “use it or lose it.”
Exercise and movement are crucial for keeping the body operating at its peak level. But after our 40s, coordination and balance become increasingly challenging.
These factors make movement for seniors more of a struggle. Fortunately, improving gait and mobility with Pilates can help older populations stay on the move with more confidence.
The Importance of Balance
Maintaining good balance as we age is key in preventing falls and injuries. It’s also a necessary component to being able to live independently. After all, we need balance for common everyday actions such as walking, getting up and down from a chair or bed, and for picking up and carrying objects.
Yet for many seniors, decreased balance and coordination and issues with walking gait lead to a fear of falling and consequential reduction of movement because of that fear. And as the body becomes less mobile, the joints and muscles become stiff and weakened – only further exacerbating the issues. It’s a vicious circle.
This is where Pilates can break the cycle.
How Pilates Works At Improving Gait and Mobility
Most people start Pilates because they’ve heard how it strengthens and stabilizes the core. They may initially want a flatter belly or a six-pack. But once the core is strong, everything else works more efficiently.
The abdominal muscles support the spine. When these muscles are strengthened, the result is a straight and upright posture. This tall spine allows for better balance and improved gait.
Pilates exercises do more than focus on the core though. There is great attention paid to increasing flexibility in the feet and ankles. Thus, there are many corrective footwork exercises in the system of Pilates. And with stronger and more flexible feet, we’re better able to lift our feet, knees, and hips so there is less dragging. It also leads to stability that allows for making adjustments on uneven surfaces.
Finally, when we’re younger, we move through life rather freely and without many concerns. But as we age, it’s important to improve proprioception – which is understanding where and how your body is in any given space and situation. Because Pilates puts an emphasis on body awareness, it goes the distance in improving proprioception.
And practicing Pilates a mere 2-3 times per week can help seniors make huge strides in their improving gait and mobility.
Some Movements You Can Try At Home
The system of Pilates is quite comprehensive. There are a number of machines that, under the attentive eye of skilled Pilates instructors, practitioners learn the rules of alignment while building strength, coordination, and balance.
But there is also a huge array of movements that are performed on a mat. So if you want to get a little taste of what to expect in a Pilates class, you can try the following:
The Mermaid movement is ideal for seniors because it lengthens the side body without being too demanding. To start, sit on a mat with both of your legs folded to the left side. Support your body by placing the right hand on the floor.
Being careful to keep your left shoulder down, stretch your left arm toward the ceiling and lean to the right as you walk your right hand further to the right to increase the stretch. Be sure the your ribs aren’t popping forward.
Gently use the core to rise back up and then repeat on the other side.
2. Side Circles
Maintaining hip joint flexibility is an important factor in improving gait and mobility. Side circles do just that.
To perform a side circle, lay on your right side with your legs in line with your torso. Extend your right leg toward the ceiling and move it five times in small counterclockwise circles. Then take five clockwise circles. Release the leg back down and repeat on the other side.
3. Rear Leg Raise
Come onto hands and knees, ensuring that your weight is equally distributed between the wrists and knees. Gently draw in your stomach muscles and left your right leg just above the ground. Point your toes, then lift your leg as high as you comfortably can. Try not to arch the back.
Slowly lower the leg all the way back down to the starting position and then do the same with the other leg. Continue alternating for several rounds. In doing so, you’ll engage your core and lower body, while strengthening your glutes.
Return to Mobility With Pilates!
If you’re looking for ways of improving gait and mobility, then contact us today.
You’ll work with an instructor who will focus on exercises that strengthen the muscles of the spine, trunk, feet and ankles to improve balance, coordination, and reaction time.
And even if you’re not experiencing these challenges, it’s never too soon to start building a strong foundation. After all, prevention is key.